What to Expect in Adolescent Health Visits
Healthcare visits change as adolescents grow into adulthood. The information below shares what to expect at various stages of a health visit.
Before the Visit/Waiting to See the Healthcare Provider
Healthcare providers may ask adolescents to fill out their own forms (either in person or on an online patient portal), which can ask about:
- Family's medical history
- Personal information (e.g., Social Security number, birthdate)
- Insurance coverage
- Who can access their health data, including parents or other healthcare providers
Caring adults can encourage adolescents to fill out forms by pulling together the needed documents, showing adolescents where to find the information, or clarifying questions they find confusing.
During the Visit
Even for patients as young as 11 years, healthcare providers will start asking parents or guardians to step out of the room for part of the visit so they can talk one-on-one with the youth. This time allows youth to talk with healthcare providers alone, ask sensitive questions, get medically accurate information, and share any health concerns not raised by their parents or caregivers. As authority figures in adolescents’ lives, parents or caregivers and providers can dominate healthcare visits. One-on-one time helps adolescents learn how to hold a conversation independently with an authority figure, and also lets healthcare providers screen for and discuss sensitive topics with adolescents, such as substance use, mental health disorders, and sexual activity.
After the Visit
Because of confidentiality laws, healthcare providers generally will not be able to tell parents about their one-on-one time with the adolescent without getting the adolescent’s consent. All patients have rights to the privacy of their health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Privacy and confidentiality are more complicated when an adolescent is under age 18 and in the care of a family member or caregiver. Laws on what can be shared with a patient’s family vary by state. Learn more about the HIPAA Privacy Rule and HIPAA generally.
While a healthcare provider may not discuss the one-on-one time of the visit, caring adults can still talk directly to their adolescent about their healthcare experience. For example, a family member or caregiver can ask if their teen learned anything new or interesting about their health or if they have additional questions. Such talks can offer adolescents the chance to think about their healthcare decisions, ask questions, and express their comfort level with their healthcare provider.
Every person has unique healthcare needs to consider. These groups may need more help in their transition to adult care:
- Youth with special healthcare needs1
- Youth aging out of the foster care system
- Youth who are homeless
- Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT)
- Youth who may not be comfortable with English
Content last reviewed on August 6, 2019